Reforesters Update 6/10/21

I was feeling restless today, so I thought I’d go over and take in a session with my trees at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust. It was a beautiful day, sunny, and not too hot. I arrived at PERT around 12:30.

On the way over I was thinking about today’s date, reminded by checking it to be ready to prepare my notes for the session. I graduated from high school on this day, 45 years ago. My goodness, what a long time ago that was, and how much has happened since then.

And then I arrived at PERT and focused on today.

First I decided to check on the trees. Now, this is harder than it sounds right now. With the rain and the sun, there is a lot of growth of all kinds of plants, and many of the trees are small. Weeds can grow as tall as they are. To compound the problem, since this area has been neglected for a long time, there is no pattern as to where the trees are, Whatever plan there was is obliterated by time and various events. So I kind of wander around and work my way in and out of the various clearings and areas in our plot.

Most trees were looking pretty good. I notice that this vine, don’t know what it is, but it is taking off right now all over the plot. It’s very flimsy; I can tear it away from the trees with my hands, but it has a sticky quality like Velcro that seems to help it grow in these masses that follow one little tendril. Anyway, it’s on every cage/tree right now. I don’t think it’s a bgi threat, but it seems to grow quickly and in the picture below several tentacles were pulling the tree limb down.

After checking the trees (I found one that we’d marked back when we started working here but the overgrowth had hidden it from us – oops. I apologized to the tree for forgetting it and cleared it posthaste of honeysuckle and gave it a more open area around it) I decided to return to the area we’ve been clearing in the middle of the plot.

I want to work to the left of the brown area today, right behind my blue tool bag.

Before I started, take a look – the brown area represents the dead cuttings from the last session.

All right. I got to work. My technique is to grab a handful of the invasives and clip, prioritizing those at eye level. (Because it is easy to walk right into a branch or rosebush cane when you are focused on something else. I have my goggles to protect my eyes but I have gotten some scratches on my face…ouch.)

I pull at the same time I clip and when I’ve gotten all the stems the tension is released and the handful comes loose. I throw it behind me.

I repeat this again and again. Eventually the interior of the clump is exposed and I can go into it, and clip the vines/rosebuseh canes/wineberry stems closer to the ground. I don’t try to pull them out – usually things are too tangled up top. Instead, I return to the outside and go back to my clipping and pulling. The difference is that now I often can pull out bigger pieces as the clump begins to clear and there is nothing holding the invasives to the ground now.

It is very surprising to me when I finish this process and find a straggly bush (usually a spicebush, they are everywhere in this plot) that was somehow surviving and holding up all these vines and other plants.

I end up with a big pile of clippings. I leave them on the ground and stomp on them. They will break down very quickly and in a few days look like those brown areas in the earlier photos.

Here’s where things ended up. It is hard to see in this photo, but in the middle, well, that is where the clump was. Now there is sunlight on the ground there.

I also found another dead tree in this thicket. I saw something shiny by my foot and leaped back, not knowing what it was. Then I realized I saw wire mesh. And a wooden stake. The cage had been smashed flat and buried. The tree was long gone, no sign of it.

I stood it up and attached a pink flag to show it had existed. It seemed the least I could do.

After a couple of hours I decided to stop work. I went down to the bottom of the hill to check on a couple more trees and took this photo.

To me this is a place of peace.

Reforesters Update – 5/31/21

Here’s another chapter in the West Power Line Corridor tree saga, starring me and my husband. We arrived at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust about 8 AM today, ready to work. After two days of cold and rain, the weather had broken and the day promised to get sunny and warm. We thought it would be a good time to visit our trees and do some more work.

Here’s a view from the top of our plot. As you can see, there is a lot of green, but it’s not bad green. In this area here, we’ve gotten the invasives pretty much under control – not too hard since the larger trees shade the area well and the invasives are looking for sunny spots. These are just weeds.

We set our work bag in the middle of the plot (the blue blob you see). We have a bag of pruners, goggles, hats, gloves, and other items we need out here, and the blue color helps up find our way back to the bag no matter where we set it. My husband is walking up the hill coming toward the bag.

If you turn and look the other way – that’s the PERT office. I told you we were not far into the park at all. And as I also told you, it’s nice to be so close to the bathrooms and our car if we need anything. Luxury!

Since it is the end of the month we will be making our report, so we planned to count trees. I am sorry to report that we still do not have a good count. We keep finding new ones, or we get confused in the ins and outs of our plot, which still has a lot of overgrown areas.

We did find a couple of small volunteer trees, a maple and two sassafras, and we marked them with pink tape. Maybe you’ll have to take my word for it but there is a tiny tree tagged pink in there.

There is also poison ivy. I left the area quickly – you may remember my epic case from a couple of years ago and now I am very respectful of it.

After counting trees, we gotto work clearing invasives. Last time I removed a lot of wild rosebushes and wineberries from the area where I started to work on today – I wanted to get another section removed.

Now, this picture does not look that exciting, but I took out a solid block of thicket from in front of that large spicebush. You can see it now – before it was part of a large green mound, with vines snaking up it. Spicebush is not a tree, but this one is as large as a tree and can provide shade – so it has a place in the scheme here. I was happy to make its life a bit easier.

And here is a wider view, showing today’s work on the left and last session’s work on the right.

My next target – this area to the left of what I cleared today, which you see I have squarely in my sights in this photo…

How about a closer view of my enemy?

In our work today we found another tree site. No, you are not wrong, there is no tree here – it was completely buried inside some of this overgrowth and died. The sight reminded us of why we are here – to keep the trees from being swallowed up like this one. It was of course quite dead. The invasives grow much faster than the small trees and they have no chance if they are not protected. It’s not like in a forest, where the larger trees keep the invasive growth down.

Well, that’s the story for today. I know that these photos seem to repeat the same thing, week after week – a sea of green. It’s hard to tell how things are going. Take it from us, we are making progress. We have cleared about 30 trees and continue to keep them free of invasives, and we have removed a lot of wild roses and wineberries and today, even some wild raspberries.

Maria Paula, who is in charge of this project at the PERT, is going to be evaluating our area, along with all the others, for possible tree plantings in October. I hope that we will qualify for some new trees. I think that would be fantastic.

Until next time!

Reforesters Update – 5/16/21

This morning my husband and I stopped over at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust to do a checkup on our trees there. As you know, we are caring for small trees and clearing an area known as the West Powerline Corridor of invasive plants.

Today is our 34th wedding anniversary, and this is how we chose to start things off for another year. With our trees in a favorite place we have known for some time.

All right. We’ve made a couple of stops here since my last update, but have done no major work. One thing that did happen in the interim is that the PERT staff cleared some of the undergrowth using machinery, as they had mentioned in our orientation session. There were some sections that would not have been practical for us to clear, and once we had located the trees, they knew where they could do some quick cleearing for us.

You can see in this photo looking down the trail that goes next to our plot many piles of dried up brush piled up ready to be taken away, from that clearing session.

Believe me, this is a big help. Some of the thickets were almost impenetrable and with hand tools it was very difficult to work our way through. We had made some “tunnels” to some of our trees but getting more clearing done would have been very slow. Some of these wild roses have stems as thick as my finger and threaten me with millions of thorns on each one. Never mind the arching wineberry that weaves itself together into linked-arm squadrons!

Now we have more access to the interior of the plot. You can see there is a lot of work to be done still.

We decided to start at the bottom of the hill today and work up. We cleared trees (honeysuckle vines being the most troublesome – they grow quickly and snake right up the wire cages into the tiny trees’ crowns almost as you watch).

Today I focused on removing overhanging branches of spicebush, so that some larger “teenager” trees, as we call them, could have more light. I also decided to tackle a section of brush enclosing a circle of trees, that I had previously cleared.

The work consisted mostly of taking out – yes, you guessed it, roses and wineberries – but I was also able to access a couple of larger trees with vines growing up into their branches and cut them at the base. Such vines inhibit leaf growth which the tree needs to survive not to mention adding weight that eventually snaps limbs.

Look at this photo. To the right is the area I cleared – to the left is what it looked like before, and is the area I will attempt to work with next time.

You might ask what I do with all the trimmings I remove. The answer is, I put them on the ground and stomp them good. They will wither and dry up and their presence might help keep down some re-growth for a bit. We were told that it was fine to leave the clippings and cuttings where they fell by PERT and I only remove them if I have to for better footing or the like.

My husband worked on accessing the back line of the plot. There are some small trees along that area that need attention and we can’t easily get to them. Maybe you can see him; that speck of red is his shirt, in the middle of the photo.

Well, that is the update. The trees pretty much look healthy and even the weakest ones are hanging in there and putting out some leaves. Crossing fingers that everyone keeps growing and reaching for the sun.

Reforesters Update 4/28/21

Today I visited our tree plot at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust. Here’s what happened.

If you are coming in new to this story, my husband and I have taken on a plot at PERT, volunteering to care for small trees as the preserve seeks to restore the land to a forested state. It’s a long term project and we are a tiny part of it, looking after an area known as the West Powerline Corridor. Search under the term Reforesters in this blog if you’d like more info – otherwise, I ‘ll get going on this chapter of the saga.

Today was the first time I have worked on the plot alone. My plan was to count our trees for the monthly roundup and to start on some clearing of invasives, since we have done the primary task of getting our small trees cleared of vines and encroaching growth.

I arrived about 7:15 AM and went out to the plot. It was a lovely warm morning. Here is a picture looking down the power line trail with our plot on the left.

My first task was a tree count. I think we have 25 trees of varying sizes plus two dead ones. I cannot tell if I have gotten all the protected trees counted correctly – there might be something still lost in the some undergrowth, or I could have skipped or double-counted. Things are still pretty confusing right now. But I think I am in the right range.

All my trees look fine. They are getting leaves and they are free of vines and encroachments.

I did see one tree I need to report to Maria Paula, who heads the Reforester effort. This tree is getting too big for its protective sheath (meant to keep deer from rubbing the trunk). I think there is away to mark it on the app with GPS but that is a lesson for another day. Right now my idea is, go to the third electrical pole and look to your right just a bit, you’ll see the tree.

Next, I chose an area with several trees and enlarged the clear area around it. During this time I lost my pruners (they dropped from my pack) but I found them. Good. Today, I used the loppers much more than the pruners. That’s why the pruners could go missing and I didn’t notice at first.

Here’s what the area looked like and I show you a succession of photos as I cleared some of it.

In another area I created a path to a group of trees from the trail, so that we would not have to take a roundabout way through the back of the plot to get to it.

But much of the plot still looks like this:

I will be busy for a long time, won’t I? Well, after about an hour and a half I was tired so I decided to go to the relatively clear area at the top of the hill and start some clearing work. Right now the invasives have not obliterated the landscape but are scattered around working on their stealthy takeover plans. I figured this area would be a nice easy way to wrap up the morning and make a dent in an area that could be planted with trees much sooner than the thickets down the slope.

It looked something like this when I got started. I didn’t do a lot of work but it was something. The second photo shows one of my discard piles I have set beside the trail with some cleared area next to it.

Well, that is it for today. I do see a difference in the plot already – it is easier to move around it now. This project is one that rewards patience and perserverence. These are qualities that I think the trees themselves exemplify.

I really enjoy this work and I feel happy to be outside and under the big sky filled with leafy treetops.

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